According to the recent advisory issued by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR),districts with no operational COVID-19 testing facility, setting up of a new centre will be considered if the number of suspected cases is more than 100 per day and the nearest testing laboratory is over 250 kms away in the plains and over 150 kms away in hilly regions. Currently, the ICMR has approved COVID-19 testing in more than 200 laboratories across the country.

Based on new requests from several districts for initiation of COVID-19 testing, the ICMR has come up with an advisory for setting up new laboratories.

According to the advisory, a testing laboratory can be made operational in a district in case the nearest one is at the above-mentioned distance and the existing laboratories are testing at least 100 samples each per day.

If the nearest testing laboratory is at the above-mentioned distance, not testing 100 samples per day and does not agree to test samples from the affected district, then it will be closed down and permission will be given to set up a new laboratory, it said.

To have a testing facility, the district should also have a BSL-2-level government laboratory, including a molecular biology setup for virological diagnosis and availability of staff with a good understanding of laboratory biosafety and biosecurity, and trained to handle respiratory samples for viral diagnosis among others.

“If a district has no government laboratory, but has a private laboratory which can apply for COVID-19 testing, the laboratory should have NABL accreditation and the scope of accreditation must include real-time PCR for respiratory viruses,” the ICMR advisory stated.

Proofs of the mentioned requirements need to be submitted to the ICMR while applying for a new testing laboratory, including documents and photographs of the laboratory, it said.

In a meeting headed by Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan  earlier this week, DG, ICMR informed that 129 government laboratories are functional with a testing capacity of 13000 tests per day along with 49 NABL accredited private lab. The private chains have around 16000 collection centres. It was also informed that adequate test kits have been procured and disseminated across the States for any further eventualities.